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Treatments for Canine Noise Aversion

Beat the Fireworks Fears

by Juliette Veenstra, RVT

July 5th is a busy day for U.S. animal shelters; one of the busiest, in fact.  July 4th usually means fun for humans, but our canine companions don’t find day so celebratory.  Fireworks bring fear to many dogs, and some have such severe reactions that they injure themselves or even get lost trying to seek shelter from the noise.  The day after Independence Day is a busy one for shelters as they become (hopefully) temporary housing for dogs scared by the fireworks.

Fear of noises is known as “noise aversion,” and it is not limited to fireworks.  Thunderstorms, loud music, construction, and even traffic noises can induce fear in our pets.  Their reactions can be as mild as hypervigilance and as severe as diving through a glass window to get away from the scary sounds.

Fireworks Fear in Dogs - a common 4th of July DangerNoise aversion is a normal “fight of flight” response to what your dog perceives to be a threat.  The behaviors exhibited are part of normal physiological survival responses to avoid imminent danger; however, severe, persistent or exaggerated duration responses can have long-reaching effects.  Beyond the obvious dangers of a panicked escape causing injury, exaggerated responses can result in aversion to other types of noises, development of other anxieties, or an increase in the intensity of the pet’s fear reaction.

The causes of noise aversion are not completely understood and likely vary from case to case.  Regardless of cause, behaviors associated with the condition often include:

  • Trembling/shaking
  • Excessive clinginess
  • Hiding
  • Attempting to “escape” (often blindly)
  • Excessive panting (when not hot)
  • Pacing/restlessness
  • Whining/whimpering/barking
  • Cowering
  • Hypervigilance
  • Lip licking or yawning when not tired
  • Destructive behaviors

It is estimated that only 40% of dog owners seek veterinary help for their dogs’ noise phobias. Many owners of untreated dogs reported that they did recognize that their dogs “overreacted” to noise, but they did not understand that the behavior represented fear.

Old Treatments
In the past, noise fearing dogs that were treated were often given a common veterinary sedative, which effectively calmed the behavior.  Recent studies, however, suggest that simply sedating the dogs may calm the physical reaction, but it does nothing to ease the anxiety that the dog feels.  Basically, they still feel the fear but can’t do anything about it.

New Treatment Options for Canine Sound Fears

Recent interest and research on behavior problems in dogs has led to many new treatment options that focus on calming the fear itself, not just sedating the physical behavior. 

Sileo
All Pets Animal Hospital is proud to introduce Sileo, the first and only FDA approved treatment specifically indicated for the management of noise aversion in dogs.  This oral-mucosal gel is easily applied between the cheek and gum.  The formulation and dosing provides calming without sedation, allowing the dog to be relieved of anxiety while still remaining fully functional and able to interact normally with the family.

Sileo: a revolutionary new treatment for Canine Noise Aversion and Fireworks Fears in Dogs

Sileo comes in an easy-dosing syringe and is intended to work on its own, without additional treatments or training.

https://www.zoetisus.com/products/dogs/sileo/

Sileo is very easy to administer, however it must be administered correctly to be fully effective.  For more information on Sileo administration:

https://www.zoetisus.com/products/dogs/sileo/administration.aspx

Behavior Medications – Veterinary researchers & behaviorists have found that some medications used to calm severe human anxieties can have similar effects in dogs.  These drugs can help stabilize chemical imbalances in the dog’s brain, ultimately calming the fears and anxieties that dogs share with their human counterparts.  Medication choice and dosage will depend on the nature of the behavior and the pet itself, so it is important to not offer these to your pet without first being advised by your veterinarian.

Calming Pheromones
All animals release chemical signals known as pheromones to communicate with each other.  These chemical messages send various signals which are received and processed unconsciously by animals of the same species.  We can use “calming” pheromones, such as those produced by nursing females, to help bring a feeling of peace to our dogs and cats. 

Adaptil and Feliway are artificial pheromone products which mimic calming pheromones of dogs and cats.  In cats, Feliway is often used as part of a treatment regimen to treat inappropriate urination or inter-cat aggression.  Adaptil for Dogs is used to help treat anxiety or fear related behaviors, including noise phobias.

Feliway and Feliway Multicat (for treatment of multicat aggression) are available in room diffusers and area sprays.

Adaptil is available as a collar, room diffuser or area spray.

Thudershirts – These snug fitting jackets provide comfortable, constant gentle pressure to a dog or cat’s body.  The design was based on research into the calming effects of “deep touch pressure” in humans, most notably those with autism.  The resulting feeling is similar to swaddling an infant.

Thundershirts have been scientifically shown to lower heart rates and calm behavior in dogs with anxiety disorders.  Many owners have reported very positive results, as well.  These pressure wraps can be safely used in combination with pheromone, behavioral and drug therapies.

Music therapy
They say that “music calms the savage beast,” right?  This saying might not be far from the truth.  New studies indicate that certain music tempos may actually have calming effects on our furry friends.

A new series of music compilations called “Through a Dog’s/Cat’s Ear” aims to provide calming music to help soothe stressed out pets.  The pieces are pleasant for the human ear too.
Even if you don’t want to buy these albums, trainers and behaviorists say that any pleasant music can be played to cover up the sounds of the fear-inducing noise.

Behavioral modification
While we are able to provide many treatments for noise therapy, we would ideally like for our pets to not need them.  To change your pet’s mindset in regard to a noise phobia, owners need to invest time on behavioral modification—essentially training a pet to have a different response to the sound.  This type of training can take weeks, months or even years to reach full efficacy.  Don’t expect to “cure” your pet overnight, but with consistent effort you can help pets to be more comfortable with different sounds and, in many cases, no longer need medications to help alleviate their stress.  It is strongly advised that owners consult a professional when attempting behavior modification to reduce fears and anxieties.

Additional therapies, such as behavior medications, pheromones and thundershirts can be useful in conjunction with behavior modification.